schools.jpgA coalition of parents, educators and their supporters gathered in San Francisco today to call on state representatives to let tax extensions–a key part of Gov. Jerry Brown’s state budget proposal–go before voters so K-12 education cuts might be spared in this year’s cycle.

The group, a grassroots organization called Educate our State!, delivered 30,000 letters this week to state lawmakers asking them to support the budget, which would close a $25 billion deficit with $12.5 billion in cuts and $12 billion in revenue generation.

The revenue is dependent upon voters deciding in June to extend various taxes and fees, but so far, Republican lawmakers have refused to let the issue go before the public. Brown needed an additional four votes, today’s speakers said.

“California has already dropped to the bottom of the country in per-pupil spending,” said Robin Dutton-Cookston, a local mother and writer. “We are failing our children; we are shortchanging their futures.”

She said additional education cuts would lead to increased teacher workloads, larger classes and widening of the achievement gap. The state faces future economic decline, increased joblessness and higher crime rates if today’s youth are not well educated, she said.

Brown has vowed to close the entire budget deficit with cuts if Republican lawmakers refuse to let the tax extensions go to the voters or if Californians to do not approve them.

K-12 education could lose another $5 billion in funding — 25 percent of its entire budget–despite many consecutive years of cuts, the coalition said. That would amount to $900 per child.

“There’s sort of this idea that there’s too much money going to education and that it’s all being used on waste, fraud and abuse,” said Crystal Brown, a San Francisco mother and one of Educate our State!’s founders.

“But I can tell you firsthand it’s not being wasted. Our kids will suffer if there are more cuts.”

California was ranked 47th in the nation this year in per-pupil spending, according to the nonprofit California Budget Project.

Today’s speakers warned the state could fall to the very bottom of the pile if additional cuts are not averted. School districts across the state are preparing to finalize thousands of pink slips sent to teachers and administrators if the tax extensions are not put to a vote, Crystal Brown said.

The governor had hoped to have the special election approved this week so voters could decide on the measure by June. Educate our State! is still facilitating letters to lawmakers in the 11th hour through its website,, its representatives said today.

Thirty Republican legislators joined a caucus pledging not to support the governor’s budget proposal, so the parents have been working on about 10 remaining Republican legislators who might be open to it, Crystal Brown said.

Other speakers repeated the call for lawmakers to let the public vote on the tax extensions.

“(Education spending) is not welfare; it’s making an investment,” San Francisco mother and local Parent-Teacher Association president Jessica Irvine said. “A hallmark of a democracy is to create a literate electorate.”

Janna Brancolini, Bay City News

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